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The Axe is back!
Barstow wins for first time since '08
VICTORVILLE • The day before his team reclaimed the Axe, Barstow football coach Mike Esposito got a reminder of just how much the trophy means to the people of his community.
“Coach Esposito,” the e-mail began, “I’m stationed overseas in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. I’m a Barstow grad and former player. There’s nothing nice over here. Matter of fact, it is the worst place on earth. I wish I was there watching my Aztecs play this weekend, but I will be thinking of the whole team all day Friday. Please bring the Axe home so I have something to cheer about over here in this hell hole.”
The message was sent by a man named Ben Flores; Esposito read it to his players before the game and again when they trailed at halftime.
The Aztecs responded with an 18-14 comeback victory over Victor Valley at Ray Moore Stadium on Friday night in the 89th Axe Game, winning the Axe for the first time since 2008.
James Noble III rushed for 168 yards on 43 carries and the Barstow secondary picked off Victor Valley quarterback Eric Turner four times as the Aztecs improved to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the Desert Sky League.
The Aztecs threw the ball just twice, relying mostly on a tight formation they call “Smash” — two tight ends and four backs, with Noble and Tracy Venable alternating snaps under center.
Meanwhile, Victor Valley (0-6-1, 0-1 DSL) lived by the pass and eventually died by it. Turner threw for 209 yards and two scores but also threw four costly picks — two to Kyle Pittman, one to Austin Crank and one to David Green.
The contrast in styles was evident from the start: Victor Valley preferred to move the ball through the air, while Barstow kept it on the ground. The Jackrabbits attempted 13 passes in the first half, while the Aztecs didn’t put the ball in the air until late in the second quarter.
Victor Valley charged out of the gate with a 76-yard touchdown pass from Turner to receiver Marquis Wimberly on the game’s third play from scrimmage. Turner hit Wimberly near midfield, and Wimberly did the rest with his game-breaking speed.
Barstow answered near the end of the first quarter with a methodical 74-yard drive, running the ball on every play. Green finished off the drive with a 7-yard TD run, and Noble III added a two-point conversion to give the Aztecs the lead.
Noble III rushed 14 times for 68 yards in the first quarter alone, but he was held to zero net yards on four carries in the second quarter.
Victor Valley regained the lead in the final minutes of the first half, when Turner capped a 75-yard drive with a 21-yard TD pass to Isiah Lloyd with 1:30 to play in the half.
Barstow opened the third quarter with a 35-yard field goal by Sultan Hamdan, and Venable scored on a 7-yard run early in the fourth to give Barstow the lead for good.
The Aztecs will be at home for the season’s final three games. Next Friday brings a match against Hesperia, with a 7 p.m. kick-off.